I think Terryl Givens was right. I think a primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to drive each of us toward real dialogue with the living God. And I think Moroni is right â€“ that if we as Mormons are not experiencing some kind of regular dialogue with God we are denying the gifts of God.
If there is any one subject I have focused on in the last year at the Thang, it is personal revelation. I write a lot about it because I honestly believe that personal revelation is the best solution to nearly all of our individual spiritual problems (and many of our earthly problems too).
First, let me explain the connection between personal revelation and the rest of the gifts of God as described in Moroni 10. If you hadnâ€™t noticed already, each of the gifts of the Spirit listed in verses 9-16 require personal revelation of some kind:
- Teaching the word of wisdom or knowledge by the Spirit (Requires inspiration and revelation)
- Great faith (Given directly from God to us through revelation)
- Healing (Given as a result of revelation — either revealed during the laying on of hands or during dialogic prayer or both.)
- Working of mighty miracles (Requires revelation â€“ see D&C 8:3)
- Beholding angels
- Gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues (Requires inspiration/revelation)
Iâ€™ve said it before, but I really believe that if we are not receiving some form of regular revelation from God we are wasting our Mormonism. In fact, the message I get from the Book of Mormon is not that the people we learn about in that record are untouchable great prophets of some ancient mythic age, but rather that they were mostly regular folks that had consistent dialogue with God. I think Nephi is essentially saying â€œI talked to God a lot and he spoke back to me â€“ you can and should do the sameâ€?. But Moroni seems to be prophesying that we will have difficulty actually doing that. In his last words I get the impression that he is pleading with us not to put him and the other men he wrote about on a pedestal, but rather to do as they did and receive regular personal revelation just like they did. If the people we revere in the Book of Mormon are prophets then each and every one of us should be prophets within our own spheres/stewardships too. In fact, Wilford Woodruff taught that the gifts of God were among the things that were lost from the earth during the great apostasy and that were restored again to us. If we are not individually accessing at least some of the gifts of God (via personal revelation) could that mean we are closer to personal apostasy than we realize?
Last Spring I posted on some horrible news I learned about a friend of mine. I discovered that he had left his wife and three small children and the church. He was in his mid thirties, a high priest (due to his service in a bishopric), a returned missionary, and an overall kind and reliable and generous friend, husband, and father. Then seemingly out of the blue this happened. Upon further searching we discovered that the cause of his choice was not the common things we often hear about in these cases â€“ we know of no pornography problems, no substance abuse, and no adultery. There was reportedly no major iniquity that led to this shocking action. From all accounts it was simply that he had gone for too many years without hearing (or at least recognizing) the voice of God for himself. He eventually decided that it meant there was no God and therefore his whole life was a mistake. He made the choice to dump his life and try a new one.
Itâ€™s such a tragedy. I still mourn for his sweet wife and three little ones. I mourn for him too. I mourn because he got it wrong — there actually is a God. I know that for sure because God talks to me. He talks to me in promptings sometimes, in ideas sometimes, and even on special occasions I am given prophetic dreams. People in the bloggernacle sometimes whine about how we Mormons use the term â€œI knowâ€? about spiritual things; but when it comes to the question of whether God exists or not — I know.
What would I have told my friend had I known of his struggles? I would have tried to relay to him where to start when it comes to personal revelation. I would have tried to help him understand that the messages from God are often there but our spiritual ears need to be trained to discern them. If he could have â€œbroken throughâ€? and clearly heard and felt the voice and presence of God I believe it could have changed things. But it was too late for any of that by the time I got word. He wonâ€™t return my calls.
But I suspect that there are brothers and sisters that are quietly and regularly reading here at T&S and in other parts of the bloggernacle who are sort of like my friend and that it is not too late for them. I suspect they are people who are spiritually struggling but have not made their minds up yet. I imagine they are people who, like him, havenâ€™t heard or recognized or comprehended the direct voice of God in far too long. People who are wondering what is so special about Mormonism or if there is a God at all. To them, let me add a quote from President Faust:
No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creatorâ€¦ We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place. (James E. Faust, â€œThe Lifeline of Prayer,â€? Ensign, May 2002, 59)
To you who are spiritually teetering on the brink I would plead that you donâ€™t give up until you break through and hear from God at least one more time (Iâ€™m assuming most in the church have had at least one revelatory moments in their lives). Pull an Enos if you must. But there is nothing more important in life than to get this question right.
To all, Iâ€™ll quote Moroni:
For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power of the gifts of God. (Moro 10:25)
May we do good. May we deny not the gifts of God. May we regularly receive personal revelation.